A carbon frame and fork from the USA for £300? You better believe it!
A year ago word reached me that US-based mail order company Pedal Force was offering quality carbon frames, like the Pedal Force RS2, at ridiculously low prices on a ‘group buy’ scheme. I was in the market for a second or ‘winter’ bike and these prices were so low I figured I’d put them to the test to see if it really is possible to buy a frame comparable to the many ‘own brand’ frames offered by several UK-based firms.
My ‘bidding’ process took place in January and delivery was promised for April. So I took the plunge and put in a bid for an RS2 then watched the prices plummet as people signed up. In the end the total cost (remember 12 months ago the dollar exchange rate was much more favourable) came to just under £300 for frame and forks. You also have an option to purchase groupsets and wheels at low prices but remember this was a budget-orientated project and I didn’t want to incur too much import tax.
Order placed and deposit paid, I sat back and forgot about it until the date of delivery neared, so I thought I’d test the service. I was pleasantly surprised that every question I emailed regarding the frame’s delivery was immediately answered by a person with a name from Pedal Force. Much more friendly than so many faceless, anonymous website orders you deal with. I even got a telephone call from a Mr Wing in a Singapore shipping company saying that the package was on its way and a rough idea of how many days’ time I could expect to receive it in.
Duly it arrived in excellent heavy-duty packaging with not a scratch on it and the import tax was a none-too-ruinous £36, putting the entire cost of the handcrafted full carbon frame/fork at £326.00. Which is awesome (unless the thing rides like a bag of spanners of course).
Now, at this point you might say that any number of carbon frames are available at this kind of price without the four-month wait and you’d be right. But when you see an RS2 in the flesh you suddenly realise just how good the deal is. Superbly understated quality (in black or black and red) allows you to either leave it ‘stealth’ or personalise it with your own decals. The swoopy curves lend an organic feel to the design (definitely Alien rather than Predator) and the frame weighs in at an impressive 40g shy of a kilo. Tales abound on various cycling forums of people who have set these up with top-end groupsets and the complete packages were weighing in at under 16lb.
As my (admittedly more than a little eccentric) winter bike needs were more modest, I built it up with some parts I already owned (DT-Swiss’s highly underrated Mon-Chasseral wheelset, Easton bar and seatpost with a Pro Vibe 7S stem). Having saved so much money on the frame/fork and being already in possession of wheels and components I was prepared to spend a little cash on a groupset worthy of the frame. Then SRAM stepped in and asked me if I’d try out its re-vamped 2009 Rival group. Having been a convert to the Double-Tap system all year with the excellent Force groupset, I bit its hand off. Rival is the ‘lower’ end group which retails at around £650, so with the wheelset now available on websites at under £400 and a rough estimate on the components I added it would have been possible to built this bike new for under £1,300. Which is startling when you look at the quality of it and bear in mind that it weighs just a shade under 17lb.
All of which of course is academic if it rides like the aforementioned bag of spanners but having done my research on various reviews of the frame before committing to the purchase (well you would wouldn’t you?) I kind of knew it would be good. And I wasn’t disappointed — a superb handling bike, nicely balanced with a very positive front end and plenty stiff enough in the bottom bracket/stays area for great acceleration and power delivery. And that weight just makes it a superb sportive bike in combination with the unrivalled comfort that full carbon frames offer you. I’ve ridden much, much less impressive frames than this for twice the money and while I wouldn’t put it up there with the best high-end carbon frames from Time and Look, pound for pound it outperforms just about anything I’ve ridden.
This year’s Pedal Force group buy scheme features a couple of frame/fork/groupset options and is online at www.pedalforce.com Obviously when you buy online from foreign websites you take an element of risk but Pedal Force frames come with five-year warranties and the whole ordering and delivery process was so smooth I’d have no hesitation in recommending them.
How to 'group buy'
The group buy scheme works like this; Pedal Force offers a couple of its frames as group buy deals and invites interested parties to sign up and say how much they’re willing to pay for one. The more people who sign up, the cheaper the offer becomes. At all stages you can track the price on their website as more and more people sign up for the deal. When the cut-off date is reached and the final price posted, you then pay a deposit and if everyone who says they wanted one actually pays, that’s the price you pay. If they don’t and the price is higher, you can decline and pull out at any stage having not paid a penny. When the deposits are in, the order is placed to assemble the frames.
The Pedal Force RS2 looks fantastic, is extremely lightweight, comfortable yet sporty enough to race and costs ridiculously little. I’d suggest there are many web-based companies who might be looking at Pedal Force and its product with some awe.
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